Every child deserves a chance to play baseball
One of the reasons we love sports is because they bring us together like little else can. You won’t see this illustrated any more clearly than on a field tucked away in the northwest corner of town. Though modest, the field is special – both in its unique composition and in activities it hosts for a few weekends each spring and fall. It is the home of the Austin Miracle League.
The league is a non-competitive baseball league designed for children with special needs. These young people play two innings per game – each player bats until they get a hit, runs the bases and crosses home plate before any inning concludes. In between innings, players gather at the backstop to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and do the “Chicken Dance” alongside teen-age volunteers who also help guide them around the field, play catch and keep them safe.
Miracle League players enjoy a truly distinctive experience that mixes exercise, social interaction and good old-fashioned fun, but ask anyone else involved with the league – parent, volunteer coach, or player buddy – and you’ll inevitably find positive ripple effects that are unique to each individual.
Megan Norris’ daughter, Lyla, was born with congenital myopathy. The rare disease is similar to muscular dystrophy in that Lyla’s cells don’t release the proper amount of calcium to make her muscles strong like typical children. In the Miracle League, Lyla’s limitations don’t matter.
“We are so thankful Miracle League provides our daughter the opportunity to play on her first team,” said Norris.
Volunteers or “buddies” say participation in Miracle League is enjoyable and transformational.
“Miracle League has transformed me as an individual to become more open minded and involved,” says McNeil High senior Jennifer Cho.
Fellow buddy and younger sister Jasmine adds, “It’s a place where I can find my happiness and create lifelong memories – I look forward to every Saturday!”
Volunteer Krista Schnur joined the league as a buddy in high school, then moved back to Austin after college and took an even more active role. “I fell in love with the organization,” said Schnur. “I’m excited by the challenge of engaging the kids who are more tentative to play, and to help them forget about their illnesses or conditions if only for an hour.”
Schnur’s involvement with Miracle League even inspired a career change. She’s now pursuing an occupational therapy degree so she can continue to help children with special needs.
Austin’s Miracle League chapter has been virtually all-volunteer since it launched, and only began requesting a small registration fee earlier this year. Though resurfacing Miracle Field for safety every ten years or so comes with a hefty six-figure bill, the league’s founders and board remain committed to “saying no to no child.” Austin’s chapter was launched more than a decade ago in partnership with Town & Country Optimist Club, and serves about 250 players from ages 4-19 each season.
The league is currently gearing up for its 26th consecutive season which begins September 22nd. Volunteers and donations are consistently areas of need, but for the thousands of Austinites who have had their spirits lifted by this Miracle League it’s overwhelmingly clear that what happens on their field for a few Saturdays each year is too miraculous to ignore.
To learn how you can help, visit www.austinmiracleleague.org.